SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-17
THEME: Influenced by Jesus
When it come to faith, we become intrenched because we don’t want to be wrong. But what if what we have been holding onto is wrong, how do we change? When we want to be correct, sometimes we take a strict literal understanding and miss the freedom, grace and wide expression of our faith. Could it be possible that faith in God is more about grace and living than following a bunch of rules?
A leader who has been teaching the same theories of faith year after years, has been intrigued by this new approach to faithfulness with God. It is not so much about obeying a set of rules to keep in God’s good graces, but about living
transformed lives in a relationship with God. This makes us think about the people who have been influential in our lives.
How our relationship with them have changed the way we wash rice, tie a hook, take a bath. I was watching an episode of “Friends” and Chandler caught Joey for using his wash cloth. Joey’s come back, was to have Chandler think about
the last place he washes with that wash cloth and the first place Chandler washes when he takes a bath. I now rinse my wash cloth out before I bathe. If even an incidental relationship with TV can change our behavior with truth,
how much more should our lives be transformed by our relationship with God and God’s truth?
Jesus’ teaching is a teaching of change by being able to living intimately with God because God allows it, sin and all. Instead of living in a way as not to draw attention to the wrath of God we can find purpose, adventure and creativity with
God. Under the cover of night Nicodemus goes to have a one on one discussion with Jesus, but it was not what he expected. Marveling at this new approach to God Nicodemus comes to Jesus with platitudes, “Rabbi”, “Teacher from God”, “signs that display God is with you”. Jesus is unimpressed but wants to get to the heart of the matter, so Jesus
“Rabbi”, changes the subject to address the kingdom of God and being born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. Water is baptism, reminding us of a repentance that turns us Godwards. The
Spirit is the power of God that helps us to participate in the activity of God or the will of God. Turning our direction to participate in the God’s activity in the world, is how we can begin to see the kingdom of God in our realm. Being born of water and Spirit is one thing; listening to what God wants us to do, and to let God helps us with abilities through God’s Spirit.
Jesus then ties the past with future events, the ascension tied Elisha's heavenly ascent in a chariot of fire with the prophetic messiah, who is Jesus, the Son of Man. The lifting of Moses’ serpent on a stick saves anyone destined to die in the same way The Son of Man must be lifted up to save those who have been poisoned by sin. All who believes in him may have life with God that is eternal.
This is a display of God’s love for the world, not God’s condemnation of our waywardness. Take a breath, once we figure out that God is not out to get us, instead of trying to fly under God’s radar, we can begin to live with God! The
possibilities are freeing and endless.
We are influenced by the relationships that we have. They inform us, inspire us, show us ways to do things and how not to do others. So when we believe in Jesus, we begin our relationship with God. We are about living not dying. Believing is transformational. Belief sets us on a new course. We are influenced by God. Having Jesus as a part of our lives causes a dying to somethings as it brings a living to others. How does Jesus influence us to live? We live in compelling ways that express our faith in God and love for each other. Life is like a rummage sale that has a good reputation. Did you know, our
little rummage sale has a good reputation in the community? This has been about the third one, when people have come said, “you have the best rummage sales.” “good quality things at good prices,” but not only that, “you all seem to
get along together”. “it is like you really enjoy and respect each other”. then someone said, “Yes, that is how we are in church, you should come.”
There were some people at this rummage sale that asked what time our service was, and said they wanted to come to church here. Our people shared bottles of water with people who were thirsty, bought roast pork plate tickets and gave them to the food pantry. This was not just any roast pork plate either. When I got home to eat mine, it was gone in less that five minutes. Scarfed. I even had theological discussion at the rummage sale. We were discussing the Event at Iao UCC on the Bible and Homosexuality. What does this mean for us? It means this is a good time for us to discuss this and get a new perspective. It may be influenced and change the way we think or not. Or more importantly, it may influence the way we behave. it is worth a look and see. It is like Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. In an earnest exploration of the heart of the matter. And maybe the matter is not so much about what is sin or not, but how
we love, care and treat our neighbors.
In the future, when we ask some of our members how they came to WUC, some will say because of the Preschool, Some will say because of the Music at WUC, Others will say because of the great rummage sales the church has put on, but most will say because of friends who have invited them to come. You are all so nice and get along so well with each other, you are living out your faith as best you can and there are others, who wanted to do that too. When people come, they may not believe in Jesus being lifted up but they believe that we have taken our relationship with Jesus seriously and are as best as we can, living with grace, love and forgiveness.
Influenced by Jesus to live faithfully in the activity of God in our world.